HDD vs. SSD Real World Gaming Performance

We've upgraded all our video card test systems to SSDs recently. But does it actually make a difference in real world gaming performance? Today we are going to test the claim that an SSD will improve your gameplay experience compared to a spinning hard drive. We test several games apples-to-apples on our video card test system.

Introduction

This topic of whether a Solid State Drive (SSD) will improve your gameplay performance over a spinning Hard Disk Drive (HDD) is a long debated topic since SSDs became more common and affordable. There have been many claims and articles that SSDs will improve your framerate performance in games versus an HDD. One of the most infamous presentations showing that SSDs can improve framerate performance was this presentation from Intel several years ago.

Until recently, we continued to use HDDs in our standard gaming system setups for video card reviews. While we were using HDDs, we received a lot of feedback from our readers, and on the forums, that we should upgrade our review systems to SSDs. The reasons were numerous, supposedly we'd get better framerates, supposedly we'd get more consistent gameplay, supposedly we were potentially holding back gameplay performance, or supposedly we were showing stuttering with HDDs.

We have since transitioned all of our video card testing review systems over to 240GB SSDs. However, the question remained, did that actually make any difference in terms of gameplay performance? All the suggestions that we should upgrade to an SSD, was it worth it? Did it improve the gaming experience and reduce stuttering?

We finally had the time to sit down and do some direct testing between our previous HDD we were using for testing, and our new SSD. We made some direct apples-to-apples gameplay performance testing between our old HDD and our new SSD, running the same software on the same system. We utilized games like ARMA 3 which are potentially demanding with disk access. We also included other games, and the latest Battlefield 4 multiplayer gaming as well.

Hard Drive Setup

- The HDD we are using is a Western Digital 640GB Black Edition WD6401AALS 7200RPM SATA 3 hard drive.

- The SSD we are using is a Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SATA 3 SSD.

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We used a single video card for all tests, and the Radeon R9 290X with latest drivers.

We have Windows 8.1 installed on each hard drive, clean, with no background apps running. We made sure to run Windows 8.1's Disk Optimizer on each hard drive before each game run, which includes the TRIMM command on the SSD.

We used the latest version of each game, and performed the gaming run-throughs carefully at apples-to-apples settings.

Our goal is simply to compare gameplay performance between the HDD and the SSD and see if upgrading to an SSD makes any difference in the gaming experience.